You can trust a banker with your lunch money, but not if they’re at work

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Stealing

Another day, another study that makes bankers look relatively lousy. Yesterday, we reported on a study that found traders who work in homogenous environments, as most currently do, are more prone to follow the pack and trust the machine – attributes that could lead to financial bubbles bursting. Today’s findings suggest that bankers, when in their working frame of mind, aren’t very honest people.

The study is particularly interesting because it wasn’t actually designed to look at the trustworthiness of bankers specifically. It was a general study that included respondents from a variety of companies, and one just happened to be an unnamed bank.

Respondents were separated into two groups, according to a write-up by Bloomberg. One was asked questions about their personal lives, while the other took a survey about their work background. Afterwards, they were asked, in private, to flip a coin 10 times and self-report the results. They earned $20 for each correct guess.

Of the 133 people who worked in industries like manufacturing, telecommunications and information technology, respondents self-reported around a 50% success rate, suggesting they were honest about the results. Likewise, the 64 bankers who talked about their personal lives during the survey reported a 51.6% success rate.

But then there were the 64 bankers who were surveyed about their work. Afterwards, they claimed, as a group, to have guessed correctly nearly 60% of the time, a much higher number than probability would suggest with such a sample size. Eight of the 64 people in the banking group claimed to have guessed correctly all ten times, a statistical impossibility. Many lied, clearly.

Intrigued, the researchers ran two follow up studies. They surveyed another bank, splitting them into the same two groups, and found the exact same results. When in their work world, bankers lie.

Researchers then conducted the same study using college students, asking half about money rather than banking in an effort to see if it is culture of banking that is at fault, rather than just the $200. Like those not working on Wall Street, the students were honest.

The two studies suggest something that many in the industry claim to be true. The culture of banking can compromise what are otherwise scrupulous morals. Good people go to work on Wall Street and end up doing immoral and oftentimes illegal things. Maybe it’s that money is both the product and the end goal. Or maybe there’s a deeper-seeded cultural problem.

It’s possible that the finance industry puts “a greater emphasis on materialistic values and status-seeking,” researcher Michel Marechal told Bloomberg. Gee, you think?

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Citigroup’s managing director of environmental and social risk management was found dead in his Manhattan apartment on Tuesday. Shawn D. Miller was found with his throat slit in his bathtub. No knife was recovered, leading authorities to believe it was not a suicide.

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Buzz Around the Office

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Quote of the Day: “The only time government is worthwhile is in crises. And the time that I'm critical of government, like the financial crisis, is when they can't function because the only reason they're there is for crises.” – Peter Solomon to Business Insider

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